The Willamette Valley wine region (which includes the Yamhill County wineries) stretches roughly 9,000 square acres and is by far the state’s largest. It was the first place grapes were grown in Oregon and is regarded as the epicenter for commercial wine production in the state.
Seeing both the northern and southern halves of the valley is difficult to do in one vacation, due to the distances and the driving time needed to take in this whole area. So, I’m partial to the northern part of the valley, an area that is arguably Oregon’s best—offering a dense cluster of wineries very close to Portland.
The Willamette Valley’s northern half is about a 45-minute drive from Portland, where the majority of Oregon’s nearly 400 wineries are tucked into the hills and ridges in an arc that begins in western Washington County and stretches to McMinnville before curving south into Polk and Marion counties.
Some of the state’s most prestigious and world-renowned wineries and vineyards are also planted here, and if you travel on Highway 47 (dubbed the “Sip 47”), you can stop at a number of great wineries in close proximity, all of which are clearly marked from the highway with handy blue signs.
Pinot Noirs Rule in the Northern Willamette Valley
While growers experiment with different varietals in this area, the bread-and-butter here is pinot noir, Oregon’s flagship wine grape. Located at the same latitude as the Burgundy region in France (an area also known for its bold pinot noirs), the cool climate constitutes the edge of where pinot noir can be ripened before autumn rains hit.
Here are three of my favorite Sip 47 Wineries…
(You can also check out an extensive map of all the Sip 47 wineries if you’re planning your own Northern Willamette Valley wine tour.)
David Hill Vineyards and Winery
The whole farm area, and the beautifully refurbished historic farmhouse, mixes sweet Americana with older European winemaking traditions. It’s a perfect place to taste a few wines and spread an outdoor picnic on its big front lawn dotted with white picnic tables.
The winery features two airy tasting rooms, a fireplace (which is welcome if your trip brings you through wine country when the weather turns chilly) and a bar.
Elk Cove Vineyards
One of the oldest wineries in Oregon, Elk Cove Vineyards is partially nestled in a cove surrounded by lush hills. The winery features stunning, expansive views from their outdoor deck (with picnic tables). Giant windows also line the circular tasting room, so you can enjoy the outdoors while sipping wines at the three-sided bar.
While Elk Cove’s upscale and beautiful tasting room is sure to impress, if you are looking for a slightly more laid-back experience, head to the super-friendly, casual Kramer Vineyards in Gaston.The vineyard still boasts beautiful views of the surrounding rolling hills and has a country-rustic charm.